The landscape of the cornerback position underwent significant changes in the past two weeks.
Asante Samuel was traded to Atlanta, which elevated Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the top of the depth chart on the left side opposite Nnamdi Asomugha. The Eagles drafted Brandon Boykin in the fourth round last Saturday and also added a talented rookie free agent in Cliff Harris.
Another player impacted by the moves was second-year cornerback Curtis Marsh. A year ago, the Eagles invested a third-round pick in the former Utah State player. When drafted, the Eagles did not have Asomugha or Rodgers-Cromartie, but it was still looked at more as a long-term investment rather than filling a more immediate need.
Even though he played cornerback in high school, Marsh started out as a running back at Utah State. When there was a need at cornerback following his sophomore season, Marsh volunteered to make the switch and earned second-team all-conference honors as a senior. Marsh was looked at as a player with tremendous upside in the NFL.
Marsh's tall and muscular frame - 6-1, 198 pounds - projects better to the outside in the Eagles defense. However, the advent of teams using slot receivers and tight ends to dominate the middle of the field makes the slot cornerback position that much more important. The Eagles have a good slot cornerback in Joselio Hanson, but with Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie could the slot be the place where Marsh gets on the field? Not likely since Boykin had extensive experience in the slot at Georgia and Harris also played there at Oregon. But Marsh doesn't think learning to play both the outside and slot positions is a mentally taxing task.
"It does help when you can just focus on doing one thing all the time, but I'm so comfortable playing outside. I've been doing it since I've been playing corner. It's simple as far as what you do; complex as far as being able to do it. That's not too much mentally. That's more technique. I have to make sure I'm on top of my technique," Marsh said.
"Nickel, slot, that's more mental. As long as I can handle that mentally, I think it'll be fine. As far as outside, it's not mental. It's moreso ability. It's a hard thing to do."
As a rookie, Marsh embraced the opportunity to learn from the Eagles' four talented cornerbacks. He played in seven games mainly on special teams.
"I look back on it and all of the knowledge that I gained, how privileged I felt to be in that situation and it was fun," Marsh said.
When Samuel was traded just before the start of the draft, Marsh understood that it means there could be more of an opportunity to get on the field in his second year.
"I'm looking to come in in any kind of situation that is available for me," he said. "Whether that's nickel, whether that's coming in on outside, I'm going to do whatever I can to contribute and to pitch in."
Another difference with the secondary this year is the addition of Todd Bowles as secondary coach. Bowles came to Philadelphia this offseason after spending the past four years with the Miami Dolphins as a secondary coach and interim head coach. The Eagles will look to employ more press coverage this year with their cadre of tall, physical corners. In working with Bowles over the past three weeks, Marsh enjoys that his new position coach is "very knowledgeable and descriptive."
"If you're a corner and you're in nickel, this is what you do. This is your responsibility on this play and if this ... Cut and dry," Marsh said. "He makes it simple. I really like that about him."
In just a few weeks, Marsh will get to put all of his hard work into action on the field and give the team a better gauge of how far he's developed after his rookie year.
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